Veteran NFL coach Raheem Morris will lead the Atlanta Falcons next season, it was announced this week, filling another NFL coaching vacancy with a Black head coach.
He’ll join Jerod Mayo of the New England Patriots, DeMeco Ryans of the Houston Texans, Todd Bowles of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Antonio Pierce of the Las Vegas Raiders, and Steelers coach Mike Tomlin, along with Miami coach Mike McDaniel who is biracial, as the group of Black head coaches who will start the 2024-2025 football season.
At the moment, Morris is one of nine head coaches of color in the NFL, the most in the league’s history. (There are two head coaching vacancies left in Seattle and Washington.)
Per AP, fourteen candidates interviewed for the job, including the Patriots’ six-time Super Bowl-winning coach Bill Belichick, who looked at first to be the preferred candidate.
Instead, Morris, 47, who was last the defensive coordinator of the Los Angeles Rams, will join GM Terry Fontenant as the sole Black head coach and GM combination in the NFL.
“This is a historic day for the Atlanta Falcons,” team owner Arthur Blank said in a statement. “Raheem emerged from a field of excellent candidates and is the right leader to take our team into the future.”
Morris interviewed for the head coaching job for the Falcons last season but lost the job to Arthur Smith, who was fired the day the season ended after a loss to the Saints. Morris spent the last three seasons at the Los Angeles Rams as part of the team’s Super Bowl win in 2022.
He has a history with the Falcons – Morris was with the team from 2015-2020 and was the interim coach in 2020 for 11 games when head coach Dan Quinn was fired. After not getting the main gig, he went to the Rams.
This is not Morris’ first time as a head coach. At 32, he was named HC of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, compiling a record of 17-31 in three seasons from 2019 – 2011, including the lockout season. It’s believed that his years of experience and his ability to connect with a variety of people gave him leverage over Belichick.
Blank, 81, has changed the organizational structure so that Morris and Fontenant will now report directly to him.
Morris referenced his ability to get along with a variety of people in an interview in 2023.
“I’m from Newark, New Jersey,” Morris told The Pivot podcast. “I went to school in Irvington, New Jersey. “I’m from, like the bottom. I can get along with anybody, I can negotiate through all avenues of life. But at the same time, I can get along with people from different walks of life as well.”
But Morris said then that he was aware that Black coaches faced obstacles, he believed, of perception, when it comes to securing the main job.
“Here’s what the issue is with the Black coaches, or with anybody else,” Morris said. “People don’t feel comfortable around us. So like for me, I’m comfortable around everybody.”
But when pressed in the interview about why he hadn’t become a head coach by then despite his success with the Rams, Morris remained unwilling to say it was due to racism.
Well, now he has the main gig.
You can watch The Pivot interview below in its entirety.
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